by Selwyn Manning
The Government has gone silent over student protests at universities around New Zealand. Today’s latest, in a week of revolt, is a medical student collective lambasting of a compounding student loan debt.
A spokesperson for Tertiary Education Minister, Max Bradford, told Scoop that he will not be making a statement on the protests or criticisms of the Government’s education policies “at this stage”.
The silence has outraged the student unions and associations. Protest action has built up around the country with thousands of members joining a collective outrage.
The pressure intensified on Mr Bradford after yesterday’s “fending/tackle” incident at Canterbury University.
Three MPs were in a car. Students surrounded the vehicle and lay on the ground to prevent its departure. At least one student started to let down the car’s tyres.
Mr Bradford’s office says this group was out of control. There was no student association representatives there to control them, nor from the university administration, nor from the police.
The MPs then left the car and walked through the grounds of the university. At one point a student stood on Mr Bradford’s foot, and shouted slogans at the top of his voice right in the Minister’s face. The Minister brushed the student aside and kept walking. Eventually the police arrived and the three MPs left the campus.
This appears to have driven Mr Bradford to ground on the matter.
Students at Auckland, Victoria, Canterbury and Otago universities, are divided over protest methods employed.
But political pressure is mounting.
Today, Auckland and Otago medical students have shown their outrage of National’s tertiary education policy. The students allege this amounts to a huge social cost to the country.
Karen Skinner Co-President of the New Zealand University Students' Association (NZUSA) says: “Action taken by Auckland and Otago medical students will again highlight the huge societal cost of increasing fees and growing student debt.
"National has created a time bomb, the full
effects of which are yet to be felt.
Students may be accumulating debt now - but it is the public who will suffer the consequences in the long-run.
"The National government has been completely irresponsible with their failure to assess or monitor the effect, or potential impact on our society of the student loan scheme and skyrocketing debt.”
"Every student who graduates with a huge debt will be forced to make life decisions based on their financial situation. This means that they will be forced to pursue jobs based on the salary or will increase user-charges to the public.
"Those people unable to pay the inevitable increasing user-charges will be unable to access vital services. Today medical students are highlighting this issue in the health sector, but the problem extends to other areas for example legal advice or counseling.
"The government will eventually have to pay for this debt as well. For example teachers, nurses and other public servants will have to demand higher pay to cover their debt repayments.
"New Zealand needs a government who will take positive action in the tertiary sector before it is too late. We need National out" concluded Ms Skinner.